Assessing Celtic’s Summer So Far

Unlike rivals Rangers, Celtic have done very little so far this summer.

Only one new recruit has arrived in the form of Jonny Hayes from Aberdeen. The Irish widemanis believed to have cost £1.5m with Ryan Christie rejoining the Dons in a season long loan.

Signing the twenty-nine year old indicates Brendan Rodgers has a big say in who comes in during this window. The two worked together at Reading and Rodgers was full of praise when discussing the Irish international before last month’s Scottish Cup final.

The Hoops have also been linked with a host of talented young players from all over the world, that would be in-keeping with Celtic’s transfer strategy of buying potential. But as of yet no other new face has been seen coming through the Parkhead doors.

Boss Rodgers has recently stated that he believes only one more new recruit will come in during the Champions League qualifiers:

“There is another I would hope we can get in,”

“Then I just want to get through the qualifiers with the players who have got us through, knowing they are a year better on.”

That’s usually Celtic’s game-plan during a transfer window and Rodgers believes it’s only after pre-season has really begun that players in the bigger leagues become available.

So while Rangers go out and rebuild their squad with a number of signings, Celtic have decided on a wait and see policy.

I don’t think that will particularly disgruntle Celtic fans. They still have a squad that ran away with all the domestic titles last term.

The fans are desperate to see Patrick Roberts return to Celtic Park. The Man City loanee was terrific in Glasgow’s east end last season. But his future depends on City and what their plans are for him, those plans probably won’t become clearer until after Pep Guardiola sees the midfielder up close.

There have been two other significant departures from Parkhead during this window.

Former automatic first-teamers Efe Ambrose and Kris Commons have both left on free transfers. While both had successful stints with the Scottish champions it was clear during the last campaign that they weren’t part of Rodgers plans.

By releasing the two veterans, Rodgers has created a healthy hole in his wage budget. It also means that two experienced players won’t be kicking their heels on the sidelines and moaning about being forgotten about.

You have to continually prune a squad and get rid of the deadwood. It’s something that Rangers need to seriously do now, as it can cause unrest and conflict.

Another plus for the Hoops has been the lack of concrete bids for their star men.

Players such as Moussa Dembele, Kieran Tierney and Stuart Armstrong have all been linked with big money moves away but as of yet no club has come in with hard cash offers.

That will keep Brendan Rodgers happy as he won’t want to sell any top talent before the Champions League qualifiers (or at all obviously). The lack of offers mean the Celtic board don’t need to even consider getting massive profits into the club’s bank account.

As Brendan said, his side did magnificently well last season and deserve another crack at Europe. They started to show signs of improvement during their European outings last year and it will be interesting to see if they can start this term with a bang!

So all in all it’s not been a frantic summer so far for Celtic but then again it doesn’t need to be. To return to pre-season with the same faces that created such a tremendous fairytale season last term is a fine achievement for Brendan Rodgers.

If he can add one or two new faces that will excite the support before the window shuts, along with keeping his main stars, then that will be enough for the Celtic faithful in my opinion.

Alfredo Morelos Signing Shows Astute Rangers Are Interested In New Markets

Earlier this week Rangers announced yet another new signing in Alfredo Morelos.

The Colombian under-20 international arrives after signing a three year deal with the Glasgow giants.

Rangers will no doubt hope that they’ve signed the new Radamel Falcao or Jackson Martinez.

The initial signs are good for Gers fans. Alfredo enjoyed successful goalscoring form in the youth ranks back home in Colombia.

In the last year and a half Morelos has found himself in Finland, getting game time with HJK.

In sixty-two appearances for Klubi, Alfredo found the net an outstanding forty-six times. He even notched up four strikes in his six European outings for the Finnish side.

The twenty year old is a smart finisher inside the box and someone who knows him told me that he also possesses a great attitude. He is eager to get started and hungry to succeed.

Now you’d suspect that the Scottish Premiership will offer up sterner competition than the Veikkausliiga but if Morelos can live up to the hype then he could represent a terrific find for the Ibrox club.

It would be great to see a potential young South American hot-shot doing well in Scotland. It’s a region where Scottish sides struggle to bring players in from. Obviously work permits can be an issue but I still think our clubs are lagging behind in various markets.

Celtic have a decent record and have done especially well with the Asian market. But it’s about time we ventured further afield for potential superstars.

Given Morleos’ age and pedigree you’d imagine that Rangers would think they can then sell him on for a strong profit in a year or two.

Rangers are also bringing in two Mexican players this summer with Eduardo Herrera and Carlos Pena being granted work permits. The fact they speak Spanish should help Morleos settle in at the club, which is an added bonus.

Those are stars that Gers manager Pedro Caixinha knows from his time in Mexico. It has been refreshing to see Rangers delve into foreign lands again when recruiting new talent, it got a bit boring watching Ally McCoist get free transfers from other Scottish clubs or Mark Warburton scour England’s lower leagues.

It’s time Rangers, especially the fans, embrace the notion of being a ‘stepping stone’ club.

No player outside of our shores dreams of playing in the Scottish Premiership. Rangers are no longer a ‘loads of money’ club that can attract top established stars to Glasgow.

But there are still positives to playing in Scotland’s top flight, especially at one of the Old Firm teams. You get decent wages, European nights, big crowds, challenge for trophies and most importantly you’re in a shopping window for English Premier League sides.

Victor Wanyama, Fraser Forster, Steven Davies and Virgil van Dijk are all consistent Premier League talents that used to ply their trade up here.

You can go as far back as 1998 to see the transition of Gers being a pinnacle club for a player to being a stepping stone.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst joined the Light Blues with the Premier League on his mind. He wanted to use the Ibrox club as a place to get used to playing in Britain and to find his feet before moving on to a more competitive, lucrative league. It all worked out with the Dutchman going Arsenal and then FC Barcelona.

The Gers fans loved Gio and I doubt look back and think ‘I can’t believe he used us like that’.

As long as the player gives his all for the club during their stay, it really shouldn’t matter. You’ll get a top performer and then hopefully receive a nice profit from selling him on.

When Alfredo Morelos arrived at Ibrox he said the stadium was ‘huge and beautiful’. So don’t worry he knows he has joined a big club. He’ll be determined to be a fan favourite and prove his scoring pedigree.

I’m glad that the Gers have also announced a new Director of Football in Mark Allen. It’s another step in the right direction as the club look at ways to enhance their structure from top to bottom.

Let’s hope this summer can be the beginning of an era where Rangers can find potential stars from other leagues and continents and start thinking like a big club again!

Can Watford Go Places Under The Stewardship Of Marco Silva?

It was recently confirmed that the former Hull City boss Marco Silva would be taking over the reins at Watford after the dismissal of Walter Mazzarri.

The Italian was only granted one year at Vicarage Road and, although he managed to keep the Hornets in the Premier League, it was a disappointing season which resulted in a 17th-place finish.

Considering that Quique Sanchez Flores had guided the Hertfordshire club to a 13th-place finish in their first season back in the top flight and was also let go, the Watford hierarchy clearly have grand ambitions.

Could the latest hot prospect in football management be the man to take them to the next level?

Silva was brought in at Hull last season following the sacking of Mike Phelan due to a poor run of results. The Portuguese coach was tasked with keeping the East Yorkshire club in the top division, and although it was a valiant effort he ultimately failed.

However, during his time at the KCOM Stadium Silva did manage to get the attention of the football world as a potential top manager in the making. Hull had only won three league matches before the former Olympiacos boss’s arrival, but then went on to win another six in the division and two in the cup.

Impressively, Silva beat fellow countryman Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United in the second leg of the EFL Cup Semi-final, and also toppled Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the league.

It could turn out to be a shrewd decision by Watford to move for the sought-after manager so swiftly, especially while other rival sides are still on the hunt for a new man to take the helm. Crystal Palace have lingered in their search for Sam Allardyce’s replacement, and could lose out on their top targets now that Southampton have joined the chase.

Both sides will be eager to acquire the services of former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, who has been plying his trade in the Chinese Super League since being replaced by Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium. It is reported that the Chilean is keen to return to the English top flight, and is at odds of 12/1 to make his return at Crystal Palace.

Former Liverpool defender and man with a similar sounding name Mauricio Pellegrino has also been linked with the Palace job, and despite all the speculation, the fact of the matter is that nobody really knows who will take over anywhere until a club has officially announced it.

For those who like to bet on football, they can use their knowledge and assess stats to decide who would win a match, but predicting a manager is more of a gamble. At this time of year, it’s not a bad idea to take a punt on a particular name with a free bet, such as the Betfred £10 get £30 free bet listed by Oddschecker.

By installing their new manager with such haste, Silva now has plenty of time to assess the transfer market, bring in players, and begin pre-season training with his inherited Watford squad. There are plenty of talented players at the London club, but Mazzarri failed to get the best out of them last year.

Watford fans will be encouraged by the way Silva managed to galvanise the Tigers squad when he first took over, and won his first four home games in charge.

But the former Hull boss will certainly also look to add much-needed reinforcements.

Watford had one of the worst goal scoring records in the league last season with just forty strikes. That was merely three more than relegated Hull, and highlights just how much bite their attack is lacking. Silva will seek to acquire players who can supply pace and craft down the wings, and may desire an out-and-out goal scorer to lead the line.

Although Troy Deeney is a club legend, his best performances have been in a support role alongside a more prolific striker.

If Silva can get it right at Watford and deliver their best Premier League finish ever, it could be as beneficial to his career as Mauricio Pochettino’s time at Southampton was to his respective managerial path. It would also stand the Hornets in good stead for being able to continually challenge in the top flight for many years to come.

Is Alvaro Morata Good Enough for Manchester United?

According to various reports and news outlets, Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United are on the verge of signing talented 24-year-old Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid.

The Red Devils are in desperate need of support up front after releasing Zlatan Ibrahimović at the end of the campaign and the Spain forward could be the man to lead United back to the top of English football.

Mourinho is a big fan of Morata and it’s easy to see why. With 20 goals in 43 appearances for Real Madrid this season, despite spending the vast majority of the campaign on the substitute’s bench, Morata has shown just how talented he is and United might be getting a real bargain at just over £60 million.

In today’s market, that is reasonable value for a young, proven striker with plenty of European experience.

At just 24 years old, Morata is still maturing and he is only going to get better. Learning from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo has helped his development but he needs a chance to prove his worth on the big stage.

At United, he will have that opportunity – especially with Ibrahimović out of the picture. Marcus Rashford will still have a big role to play this campaign but Morata can take over the mantle as United’s main man.

If the Spaniard hits the ground running, United could be in business and a first Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 may just be on the cards. At the time of writing, the Red Devils are a 3/1 shot in bet365’s Premier League betting markets and you wouldn’t bet against them with the Portuguese at the helm. When it comes to winning trophies, Mourinho is the man.

In his first season, Mourinho led United to victory in two major competitions – the League Cup and a first Europa League success for the club. United fans are excited at what the future holds with the former Chelsea boss in charge and Morata’s statistics will also stimulate supporters. According to WhoScored, Morata averaged a goal every 85 minutes for Real Madrid this season; an incredible achievement to say the least.

Given time, Morata could blossom into a world class striker and Mourinho knows it. When it comes to recognising potential, the Portuguese is up there with the best managers in the business and United should prosper from Morata’s arrival.

He may be just 24 years old but he has a plethora of European experience under his belt and his prowess in front of goal should give the Red Devils an edge in the title race.

Mourinho is building a monster at Old Trafford and the fear factor will return.

With Morata leading the line, United will have a competent striker to fire the Red Devils to the title.

When it comes to bringing players in, Mourinho’s record is second to none – he rarely gets it wrong. Given the chance, Morata can flourish as United’s main man and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Mourinho lifting the title in the near future.

Man United Right To Keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic On Their Radar

It was a real shame to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic crumpled on the floor clutching his knee during Manchester United’s Europa League tie against Anderlecht in April.

You could see that he’d sustained tremendous damage to his right knee and he was certainly going to miss the rest of the season.

Thankfully he was in Stockholm to watch on as his United teammates clinched the club’s first ever Europa League title.

Up until the injury occurred, Zlatan had done his best to defy age and critics alike. Many had stated that the thirty-five year old was too old to make a significant impact in the English Premier League.

But Zlatan being Zlatan just did his thing and that was score goals. In total he  grabbed twenty-seven goals in competitive games for the Old Trafford side (I haven’t included the Community Shield strike).

His age clearly wasn’t an issue as he would start forty times and he would rack up more than 3300 minutes on the field.

The world class striker became the team’s focal point and Jose Mourinho would rely on Ibrahimovic to lead his side. Zlatan relished that responsibility and he would often pull his side up by their boot laces and make a real difference in games.

His warrior spirit and winning at all cost attitude helped to inspire those around him.

Training alongside Ibra would have helped shape the careers of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial for the better. They could assess his movement and instinctive finishes on a daily basis. The fact he was still producing at the top level in his mid-thirties shows them that he’s looked after himself and it’s worth listening to him or seeking him out for advice.

So have we seen the last of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Old Trafford? 

I’m not so sure.

Let’s say he’s out for another six months, that would see him out until the new year.

Yes Manchester United have technically released him from there squad but it’s also been reported that they have offered their training ground to the forward as his rehab hub.

That move could be a stroke of genius by Mourinho and the United board. They will have the man around Carrington on a regular basis and he’d still help the younger squad members whenever they feel down or give them a kick up the backside if he feels it’s warranted. It’s like having a free coach on hand.

Jose would also be able to keep an eye on the Swedish superstar’s progress as he return from injury. If he returns to fitness with the same sharpness as he had last season, then he could be an ideal signing for the Red Devils especially if they are still in the Champions League and/or challenging for the Premier League title.

The player himself believes he can make a telling comeback:

“I will go through this like everything else and come back even stronger”

Would we really be surprised to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic return for a golden swan song and ending his Manchester United career on his own terms?

Well I certainly won’t be writing him off that’s for sure!

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte Would Be Right To Dump Diego Costa

It looks like Diego Costa’s days at Chelsea are numbered.

The Spanish international told press that ‘Blues’ boss Antonio Conte had text him to say he was no longer wanted:

“Antonio Conte has told me by message that I do not follow at Chelsea and that’s it. Conte said he did not count on me for next season.”

If this is true, then I don’t agree with how it has been handled (it should’ve been done face to face) but I do believe it’s the right decision all-round.

The rough and ready attacker enjoyed a triumphant debut season. He didn’t really show up the following campaign and admitted he return to preseason over weight.

During his three seasons in England, we’ve seen plenty of tantrums and lot’s of ill discipline from the Brazilian born forward.

Last term he seemed to have righted most of his wrongs. Costa was back amongst the goals, he wasn’t getting into as much trouble with the officials, looked fit and helped his side to the Premier League title.

But we cannot forget that Diego has constantly talked about moving back to Atletico Madrid or a move to China. His commitment at Chelsea was unquestionable whilst on the park but away from the pitch he was always hinting at a move away from the club.

The striker bagged an impressive twenty league goals in his thirty-five appearances, in the last twelve months. That being said it should be noted that went through significant periods during 2017 without getting enough goals. He only scored six times after the New Year. He always seems to have those lean spells in the middle part of a season.

It was been widely rumoured that Costa’s place in Chelsea’s roster could be handed to former Blues man Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian forward struck twenty-five goals for Everton in the Premier League last term and fifteen of them came at the business end of the season.

The main mark against Diego Costa’s name will be his reported fall-out with Chelsea’s fitness coach in January. Conte supposedly said to the twenty-eight year old that ‘there’s always something with you!‘.

That alludes to Costa’s erratic behaviour.

The training ground bust-up was probably the moment Antonio knew that he had to get rid of his top hitman. His antics could’ve cost Chelsea the title had the Italian manager not found away to coexist with the forward. But tellingly contract negotiations never resumed after that incident.

Conte managed to regain Costa’s focus and that meant his squad had no distractions from their end goal. He got a proper season out of the striker and his goals did help secure the league trophy in May.

But now is the time to part ways and let the great, but disruptive, no nonsense forward leave Stamford Bridge.

It’s funny but it is a bit like the boy who cried wolf. Costa has been banging on about leaving London for at least three transfer windows now and when Chelsea decide that he’s right and he should leave, Atletico Madrid are handed a transfer ban.

So his dream return to the Spanish capital has now been dashed but it looks as though AC Milan could now be ready to pounce.

Conte and Chelsea could then move for a forward that they can get the most out of and who won’t bitch and moan every summer.

Man City Will Be Better Off Without Nolito

“My daughter’s face has changed colour – it looks like she’s been living in a cave.”

“I am under the contract, so the club will decide, but I want to leave,”

As resignation speeches go, it’s going to be hard to beat Manchester City forward Nolito’s for utter bizarreness.

Manchester isn’t the sunniest place in the world huh? Well no shit Sherlock.

The Spanish international also said he struggled to adapt and failed to learn the language. I’m not going to be mad at that if I’m being honest, we all know that the British players struggle with the same sort of problems, whenever they venture beyond our shores.

But make no mistake, the real reason Nolito is ready to pack his bags isn’t due to the lack of sunshine (read in the voice of a Gallagher brother) it’s because he didn’t have the hunger to win a place in the City team and keep that place.

In total Nolito only made nineteen Premier League appearances for the Citizens. Of those appearances only nine of them were starts, the last of which came on Boxing Day last year!

The forward only scored five goals throughout the campaign and only two of them came when he started. As for assists he only created three.

Those stats show he didn’t perform to the standards that City coach Pep Guardiola expected of him.

He once again showed that he couldn’t be a star for a big team.

Guardiola and City will be much better off cutting their losses by granting the thirty-year old his wish and facilitating his return to Spain.

La Liga side Sevilla have already been credited with an interest. The attacker was even spotted chatting to Los Blanquirrojos director of football:

“I was just casually shopping for clothes for my wife in Seville. I went to get a coffee and bumped into Sevilla’s director of football casually.”

I love the fact he felt the need to use the word ‘casually’ twice. Maybe Liverpool could get him to do their transfer meetings.

The player clearly wants to leave the Etihad Stadium, so if Sevilla or any other Spanish side for that matter come in with a bid of £10m or upwards then I doubt Man City chiefs will be hard to deal with.

City will go out and bring in a better option. Bernard Silva has already arrived from AS Monaco and talk about Arsenal hitman Alexis Sanchez has started to pick up pace.

It’s important that Pep Guardiola cuts away the deadwood as soon as possible and then recruits footballers that show the right kind of commitment to the club.

As long as the club warn any future star that Manchester isn’t constantly basking in sunshine! (Again who knew?)

Liverpool: Is Virgil Van Dijk Worth £60m?

When discussing transfer fees, we should always remember three things.

  1. In this current era, money is no object in the Premier League. Bottom side Sunderland received £93m in prize money last term! That’s shows you that it’s all bonkers.
  2. If you are buying from another side in the Premier League then it’s going to cost you a ridiculous price because the selling team already has a massive amount of cash in their bank account. So it will always cost you more to shop at home.
  3. Fans are always pretty biased. The buying club will always say they’ve got a good deal, while their rivals will always ridicule the fee and state it’s far too high.

This summer we will see plenty of transfer rumours, with supporters looking to bet on who their team will bring in and how they will do next term. You can get the best betting deals at Free Bets UK.

If reports are to be believed then Liverpool are about to win the race for the highly rated Virgil van Dijk.

The Dutch international defender has supposedly told his current employers Southampton that he’d like to leave the south coast and join the Merseyside club.

A fee of £60m has been widely mentioned. Today it was even reported that the Saints want as much as £75m for their prize asset.

Those are both eye-watering sums but I think a fee between £50m and £60m could be a decent one for the central defender.

Van Dijk has been one of the English top flight’s best performing centre-backs since he arrived in England from Celtic back in 2015.

Since moving to St Mary’s, he’s managed to score seven times in sixty-eight appearances. Last season he made on average around two tackles per game and 2.6 interceptions. His clearance record was up a around 6.8 per Premier League game. Those were better stats than Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren had for Liverpool last year.

His passing success rate was up into the mid-eighties and that’s in line with what Jurgen Klopp wants from his defensive players.

I think going and getting Virgil would be a real coup for the Reds.

They’ll be getting a proven Premier League talent. They’ll also be getting a player used to European competition and one that has met every challenge head on and been a success at every stage of his career.

Liverpool need a centre-back who remains composed and who can win most of his aerial battles.  You still look at the Liverpool backline and wonder if they’re suspect at dealing with crosses. You don’t get that feeling when you watch Van Dijk play. He also offer a threat when inside the opposition penalty area.

I’d imagine that Van Dijk would come in and replace Croat Lovren. That to me is an upgrade and that’s what any top four side is looking for when they spend big on a first team recruit. Dejan still makes too many costly errors at the back and Virgil would come in with more assured performances.

The signing of Virgil van Dijk would also be marquee signing. It would represent Liverpool beating the likes of Manchester City and champions Chelsea to a big name player. Their respective fans will state that Klopp has spent too much but their managers clearly wanted Van Dijk.

When you think that Man City paid around £47m on John Stones, based on potential and ball playing skills, then is £60m for Van Dijk really so ridiculous? At least he’s a defender who can defend.

To challenge for league titles and to make a fist of it in the Champions League then Liverpool need to come out and make impact signings during this off-season. They also need to improve on their defensive unit.

Signing a player of Virgil van Dijk’s calibre will improve Jurgen Klopp’s squad and it should also enthuse the support at Anfield.

Ultimately you can only judge a signing after the event, probably at the end of their first season. If Liverpool are in a better league position,doing well in Europe and Van Dijk’s playing well then he’ll be worth the money!

It really is a simple as that.

 

Time For Juve’s Gianluigi Buffon To Realise His European Dream!

When I think about world class players playing well into their thirties then it’s usually Italian stars that come to mind.

Players like Franco Baresi, Gianfranco Zola, Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Del Piero, Andrea Pirlo and Francesco Totti all enjoyed vast careers as top, top talents. Age never seemed to dull them of their talent.

Today, Gianluigi Buffon will lead Juventus out in Cardiff as the Old Lady looks to secure their third European Cup/Champions League title.

Ironically it’s the only major honour that has so far passed the thirty-nine year old goalkeeper by.

He’s probably been top of his game since his Parma days in the late nineties. It was during that time, playing for ‘I Gialloblù’, that I saw for myself just how great Buffon was

His Parma side were paired to face Ranfers in European competition twice in two years, with each side tasting victory.

Parma had fantastic players during those years like Juan Veron, Hernan Crespo, Lillian Thuram and Cannavaro but Buffon was the one that stood out. You knew that no matter what you had to beat the best keeper in the world to stand any chance of success.

He is one of those players that had an aura about him. Probably the only keeper I’ve seen that had that absolute wow factor. He would draw your eyes even when he wasn’t doing something and the ball was in the opposite end of the field.

Consistency is usually a key trait in a world class goalie. Buffon has played in over eight hundred club games in the last twenty or so years. In that time, injury has only really hampered him in two seasons.

Only AC Milan legend Maldini has made more Serie A appearances than Gianluigi. It’s very likely that Buffon will break that 647 game record next year.

It’s hard to think of any mistakes he has made, he’s certainly not made many.

His clean-sheet records are outstanding. Only a year ago Buffon created a new record for longest time without conceding a goal, when he went 973 consecutive minutes without picking the ball out of the net. He also holds the record for most clean-sheets in the Italian top flight.

No one has bettered his 168 caps for the Azzurri. He’s still adding to that figure and is still his nation’s captain. Buffon played a huge part in Italy’s World Cup triumph in 2006 but unlike others he didn’t walk away from the national team, no he continued to shine for his country!

Consistent world-class performances brings you medals. Buffon is testament to that and has plenty of gold to show for his efforts. He’s won the Scudetto on numerous occasions, the Coppa Italia four times and the UEFA Cup with Parma.

The only thing missing is that elusive Champions League winners medal.

He’s reached the final on two occasions but finished runner-up on both nights.

This season feels different.

Juventus have only conceded three goals on their way to the final. Buffon kept out messrs Messi, Suarez and Neymar out in the quarter final stage. He then got the better of next generation superstar Kylian Mbappe in the semis.

In the final the world’s top goalkeeper comes up against the Champions League’s greatest ever goalscorer in Cristiano Ronaldo. It will be a challenge that Buffon will look forward to.

I could tell you all about Buffon’s best qualities. He commands respect from those playing in front of him, Gianluigi’s concentration levels are second to none and his reflexes are still top notch.

But I think one of Buffon’s better traits is his character. He’s a supreme professional and he’s also very gracious. He’ll always praise teammates and opponents.

Gianluigi Buffon is also a very loyal player, he has stuck by Juve through thick and thin. You don’t hear anyone saying anything negative about the legend.

His manager Max Allegri was full of praise after the recent win over Monaco:

“On Buffon, what can I say,”

“He is still the number one keeper in the world. In the big matches he makes these performances, as he did against Barcelona.”

People want him to do well and want to see him lift the Champions League trophy because they respect the man and the admire the goalkeeper’s ability in between the sticks.

I really hope he does it and gets the chance to realise his dream!

Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane Is More Than Just A Lucky Manager

We can never underestimate the amount luck plays when it comes to football. Every great team benefits from luck.

But I think we now have to accept that Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has more about him than just a lucky streak.

Zizou is on the verge of guiding his Real side to a second successive Champions League title. No team has managed to retain Europe’s elite club trophy during the Champions League era.

Mangers like Jose Mourinho, Marcelo Lippi, Sir Alex Ferguson, Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola have all failed to to do so and that shows you the enormity of the task.

Zidane watched on as his side won the famous trophy last summer, that was after just five months in charge of the Blancos.

This season Zizou guided Madrid to their first La Liga title in five years! They would finish with 93 points and three ahead of Barcelona.

In total Zidane has managed Real to 64 wins in 86 games, that’s a win record of 74%.

So why do people think he’s just lucky?

Well some feel he’s just the boss because of his playing pedigree. But it should be noted that he has been an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti and previous to that he was an advisor to Mourinho. In 2014 he took charge of Real’s B team.

So he didn’t just walk in and become the club’s manager. He worked his way up, yes he was fast tracked but he still took on some more menial roles first. His route roughly resembles the one Pep took at Barca.

You can also look at the great players who have failed to do anything in the management side of the game. Alan Shearer, Ruud Gullit, Diego Maradona and Roy Keane were all fantastic players but were mediocre at best as gaffers.

Zidane is more in the mould of a Johan Cruyff or a Franz Beckenbauer. A world class player who can allow stars to flourish.

Look at how the Frenchman has managed Cristiano Ronaldo.

He knows the forward is his best talent but he also sees that the Portuguese superstar is ageing. Zidane has been there himself, as you get older you start to realise things don’t come as easily as they once did. You can either ignore the issue and try and bluff yourself and the world or you can adapt your game and habits to remain a shining star.

Thankfully for Cristiano he listened to his manager.

Zidane wanted his best player ready for the biggest games and the right times. He asked this generation’s true Galactico to rest more and forget about the Pichichi top-scorer award and instead concentrate more on getting the vital goals.

Ronaldo has played in less games this term but he’s still produced and importantly he’s come good towards the end of the season. The attacker has scored fourteen times in his last ten outings!

He listened to his manager because he can relate to Zizou. Ronaldo knows that Zidane was also a world class player and went through the same transition towards the end of his career.

You can also look at Isco and see that Zidane is a great man manager. The Spanish creative maestro has been in and out of the team but he’s always eager to impress and doesn’t moan about his boss. He will be probably be rewarded for this by getting a starting berth in today’s final and will no doubt shine.

It’s extremely telling that no one in the squad seems to come out and attack Zidane. Some will no doubt want more game time, that’s natural at any big club. Before they would hound managers out like Rafa Benitez and even Mourinho, but Zidane seems to have a calming influence on the squad and more importantly he has their respect.

Yes Zidane is extremely fortunate to have a squad of tremendous players but you need to manage those talents properly. We’ve seen plenty of well respected coaches leave the Bernabeu because they couldn’t get the most out of super talented individuals or turn those world-class individuals into a well functioning team.

Zinedine Zidane has came in, under a lot of pressure and scrutiny, with many people expecting and even hoping he’d fail. But much like he was as a player, Zizou believes in himself and those around him. He doesn’t bother with the sideshows, he concentrates on the centre stage and the task in hand.

He is much more than just a lucky manager and he could walk into the record books tonight if he manages to guide his team to one of their greatest ever feats!